After my article on 10000000 for iOS, I got a recommendation to check out a similar iOS title, Dungeon Raid (iTunes link). It’s a tile-matching game that has slightly different gameplay, but a common RPG element put on top. If you ask me, anytime you can solve puzzles and upgrade your weapons, it’s bound to be a good time.
And it is a good time. However…there’s one problem, while not unique to this game, that I’ve found particularly irritating here. The big benefit to touchscreens, of course, is removing that disconnect between you and your content that’s caused by a mouse and keyboard. Unfortunately, not only is your finger significantly bigger than a mouse pointer, it’s also attached to your hand. So when tapping items on the screen, your finger has a nasty habit of covering exactly what you want to look at.
After 35+ hours, I’m finally getting to the point in Final Fantasy XIII where I need to use the map. Up until now it’s been a straightforward affair mostly consisting of following a hallway until the next cutscene. Back when FF XIII was in the news, this caused quite a stir among the Final Fantasy faithful. Personally I like it, because it lets me focus more on the storytelling of the game, and less on the getting lost in the forest.
Anyway, now that I’ve made it to chapter 11 need the map to navigate the Archylte Steppe, I’ve discovered a peculiar missing feature: north. The game’s map doesn’t have any way to tell which direction you’re facing. Which is made especially hard because the map is constantly moving depending on which way you’re facing. It does have one big landmark to help you out, but even that isn’t clearly marked. Let’s talk about the map.
Historically, I’ve had a problem with Final Fantasy games. For whatever reason, it takes me forever to finish them. Usually, I’ll get about a third of the way in before I get distracted for a long time. Then when I return, I have totally forgotten the story, and it’s really hard to get back into the groove of the game. Especially one as story driven as the Final Fantasy series is.
Finally, after enduring many years of “hey can someone explain the ending of this game to me” with Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy XIII has made a simple change that has made me really happy. As soon as you start loading the game, recent plot events are relayed to you on the loading screen! Let’s have a quick look at this small but much appreciated usability-enhancing feature.
Lollipop Chainsaw is, undoubtedly, a high-score fest. Destructoid’s review compares it to the SEGA classics House of the Dead and Crazy Taxi – odd comparisons for a hack and slash game. But it’s true, much like the game of Diablo III has barely started by the time you beat the story once, Lollipop Chainsaw begs to be played again and again so you can rack up a massive score.
Okay, score is important in Lollipop Chainsaw, what’s the big deal, and how is this related to usability at all? It’s how the score is presented to the player. It looks like the game is producing some seriously fuzzy math, and it’s an example of how important it is to mind your users’ expectations.
The concept of “information scent” is relatively simple: when a user is trying to find some information, they rely on clues in the environment to tell them if a given path is going to be worthwhile (wikipedia link on information scent). This is why link titles in websites are so important – hopefully, that link in the last sentence gives you a very good idea of what’s to come on the other side.
Juliet Starling, our hero
Lollipop Chainsaw is a hack-and-slash title that has the player playing a zombie-killing cheerleader (this makes total sense). While the game’s UI is super stylish in its comic book motif, I’m going to talk about probably the lamest possible part of this game – how it tells the player that there is new content in one of the menus. I know, with so many rainbows, sparkles, and other awesome touches on this game, it’s a bit of a tragedy…but somebody has to do it.
It’s a nitpick about how notifications are a little weird in the game, and a quick discussion on how information scent factors into in the UI of Lollipop Chainsaw.